December 17, 2014

Elyria
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First feral cat committee meeting approaching

NORTH RIDGEVILLE – William Snyder has no idea how many people to expect for the first meeting of the city’s fledgling Citizens Advisory Committee being formed to deal with the city’s feral cat problem.

The meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 8 at the North Ridgeville Library.

Snyder, 78, who will chair the group, wants to make sure the group focuses on positive solutions.

“My agenda is not going back to grind an ax,” Snyder said. “That’s a waste of my time and everyone else’s. I’m into what we do from Oct. 8 forward. We do not want this to become a polarizing situation.”

The meeting is the first major step since Mayor David Gillock announced in July that the city would no longer send police or humane officers to handle calls involving feral cats.

That change came in response to an explosive community backlash that followed the June 10 shooting of five feral kittens by Humane Officer Barry Accorti who answered a resident’s call for assistance in ridding her property of a mother cat and its offspring.

Dozens of upset residents and others demanded Accorti’s dismissal at fiery council meetings. Thousands more signed online petitions circulated by animal advocate groups.

The state’s SPCA also threatened legal action if Accorti was not fired.

Police Chief Michael Freeman exonerated Accorti of wrongdoing, but Gillock and members of City Council said the matter should have been handled better, especially when it came to communication between Accorti and the homeowner over the actions he planned to take.

A retired Sherwin-Williams paint company employee and former Friendship APL board member, Snyder has commitments from Gillock and Freeman to attend the committee’s initial meeting.

Greg Willey, director of the Friendship APL, will also be on hand to offer suggestions and guidance.

As to what course the committee will take, Snyder plans to let discussions determine “what agenda items we want to pursue and in what order.”

“The first priority is to get people involved,” he said.

Snyder said he’d most like to see North Ridgeville emulate the success of Elyria, which recently paired up with the Friendship APL to try and revive a trap-neuter-release program to deal with Elyria’s estimated 14,000 stray and feral cats.

“Why re-invent the wheel when you’ve already got one that’s rolling?” Snyder said. “I can’t see why we couldn’t get the same type of support.”

Elyria has applied for a grant that could amount to $50,000 through a program offered by Petsmart.

“All cities have this problem,” Snyder said. “It’s not just us by any means.”

North Ridgeville officials have said the city will make animal traps available to residents who ask for them.

“If we can start reducing the sheer numbers of cats, one day we may get to a manageable level,” Snyder said.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.